AN ARMY of volunteers is working round the clock to ensure children of hard-up parents wake up to a happy Christmas.
Parcel Week, the traditional finale of the Chronicle-Salvation Army Christmas Toy Appeal, is now in full swing, with a mountain of presents to sort through at the Salvation Army headquarters in Prince Albert Street, Crewe.
Thanks to the generosity of readers who have again rallied round with their donations, organisers are confident they can meet demand and help make sure everyone in the district has a merry Christmas.
With more than 1,000 families registered to receive children's Santa sacks, and requests for a further 650 food hampers, the appeal team know it has its work cut out to finish by Christmas Eve.
But, with plenty of extra help on offer from schools and churches, spirits are high and everyone involved is happy to be making a difference.
On Tuesday, a team of pupils from King's Grove School in Crewe helped volunteers wrap gifts and place them into Christmas sacks for boys and girls in various age groups.
On Wednesday, a group of students from South Cheshire College lent a hand.
It's a mammoth task and volunteers have been known to work up to 11pm on Christmas Eve.
Appeal co-ordinator Heather Newton said: 'It's hard work but everyone's happy so far.
'We're working pretty much full-time hours, without pay, although people are free to come and go as they please.
'It is very rewarding to think those children who would be getting very little at Christmas will at least be opening a main toy and stocking fillers from the appeal.'
Volunteers have been greeted this week by queues of parents at their doors.
They have been calling at the Salvation Army Citadel to present their voucher and collect Christmas stockings for children. Others have also received Christmas hampers.
Food parcels will also be going out to needy folk across Crewe. To qualify they had to be on Income Support or receiving Jobseeker's Allowance.
The appeal for toys is now closed but cash remains needed after the drain on Salvation Army resources hit an all-time high this year.
It had to spend £4,000 on new toys and the same amount on gift vouchers for older children to meet the demand.
* Donations of cash can be made at the Salvation Army Citadel in Prince Albert Street at Crewe or at the Chronicle office at 32-34 Victoria Street, Crewe.